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RPM 373; NOVEMBER 1952



Sometimes it’s like shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to taking aim at the loathsome Bihari Brothers, the lying, cheating, patently stupid owners of Modern and R.P.M. Records who find themselves frequently in our crosshairs around here for various crimes against humanity.

For once they didn’t steal a writing credit that didn’t belong to them, as was their preferred means of dirty dealing throughout their disreputable careers, but in its place they give us another way to poke fun at them for something more humorous in nature than outright criminal.

The reason we get to mock them today is because they didn’t just spell ONE name wrong here – as usual adding an “e” to Rosco Gordon’s given name – but rather it’s the fact they spelled TWO names wrong on the label as they also dropped an “l” on the title character.

But hey, you know what they say… two out of three ain’t bad!


Aw, C’mon Baby!
Wait a minute here, let’s stop guffawing at Jules, Saul and Joe… a/k/a The Three Stooges… and check our recent history because doesn’t it seem as though we just wrote about their dealings with Rosco Gordon on another single just the other day?

Yup, less than two weeks ago in fact, when we had little nice to say about either Dream Baby – a song with a few good points obscured by a performance which is even more unfocused than usual for him – or the blood-curdling noises found on the ill-advised cover of the pop hit Trying, which might just be the worst thing Gordon ever was associated with in a career spanning more than a half century.

So what’s the deal? Why are the Biharis releasing two Rosco Gordon singles right on top of one another?

If they were smart, which they weren’t, maybe they realized the last one wasn’t worth the wax it was pressed on and wanted something on the shelves that people might actually be willing to buy. But it’s perhaps more likely that since Gordon’s contract (not that he was ever PAID for his work by the Biharis) recently expired and he signed with Duke Records run by Memphis radio figure David Mattis, they decided with his records about to come out elsewhere they didn’t want to have to promote an artist no longer under their control, figuring it’d give their competitors free publicity if they did.

So it that’s the case why not shove Lucile, or Lucille, or Lucy, or Lulu, whatever her name is, out onto the market now and be done with him and these interchangeable hussies.

It makes as much sense as anything else they did, which is to say “not much sense at all”.

Then again it could just be they were so busy lifting B.B. King’s wallet when he walked out of the studio none of them noticed they already had a Rosco Gordon record on the market.

The good news is this one is a helluva lot better than the last one which means if we’re lucky they were blaming each other for the loss of their most idiosyncratic artist and might possibly do one another serious harm.

We can always dream, can’t we?


How Can You Love Me?
There’s a terribly overrated movie that has some far too frequently quoted line about never knowing what you’re going to get in life… the reference was to candy I think, but it also applies to Rosco Gordon records.

With him you had no idea if you were going to get something weirdly good or just plain weird. Sometimes in one session you’d get some of both, as he might be the most likely artist of any we’ve covered so far to score records that get bright green numbers around here, signifying their high quality, and bright red numbers warning you to keep away, that were cut right after one another in the same studio on the same day with the same band.

Sometimes with Gordon it was like going from the tropics to the poles and back again, but on Lucile we’re laying out comfortably in a warm and sunny climate as this is one of his better records even if it DOES contain a lot of the same indescribable oddities that mar some of his worst efforts.

The key with Gordon when it comes to differenciating between the two extremes is just how focused he is in making those quirky aspects work in tandem with the song as written, as opposed to how reckless he can be when allowing those things to take over the song and send it careening off the rails.

Here everything is kept in check helped by the fact he’s got a really good song, if not a very original theme, which features a tight arrangement where all of the instruments are used in moderation rather than letting them collide with one another indiscriminately as was frequently the case with him.

Even the parts which seem contrived at a glance, such as his spoken intro backed by some thudding echoing drums wherein he’s inquiring as to this girl’s whereabouts, is something that leads directly into a sensible narrative that has him bemoaning all that she puts him through which he’s powerless to stop because his only recourse would be to dump her which he’s unwilling to do.

It’d be easy for him to come across as a pussy whipped pushover here, but his offbeat singing style gives the impression – maybe not intended outright by Gordon, but implied by your own imagination – that he’s the one who’s wandered off in a drunken stupor, leaving Lucile alone at some bar he only vaguely remembers from earlier in the night.

Then again it could be she tired of his passing out each evening and she just went out with friends to get away from his drunken ass and he simply forgot once he came to. But even if she IS as footloose and fancy free as he suggests, Gordon’s winsome charm, crying out in frustration during the slightly too long and a little too laid-back sax solo, never fails to keep you reasonably sympathetic to his plight.

With a constantly shifting focus in the arrangements – the pounding drums behind the verses, his own piano during the chorus joined by the horns and topped off by a shimmering distant guitar behind the saxes during the break – this is put together with real thought as to the dynamics. With that kind of precision behind him, Gordon’s unsteady lead comes across as endearing rather than off-putting and since he deftly avoids heading down the wrong street on his way back home, you have no qualms about hitching a ride with him.

Of course there’s a real good chance that Lucy is a figment of his imagination, but even that means you’ll be amused when he finally realizes this once the buzz wears off.


Don’t Come Home No More
Whenever you encounter an artist who doesn’t quite adhere to the normal aesthetic qualities of popular music there are bound to be many who just don’t “get it”, even when the artist does “it”, whatever it may be, very well.

Rosco Gordon didn’t always do his particular “it” very well, but when he pulled it off, as he does on Lucile, his records make for a fascinating alternative to the mainstream rock hits of the day.

That probably meant the success he earned when his form of “it” was new and mysterious last winter wouldn’t last once the curiosity factor wears off, but that doesn’t mean his less successful singles were any less compelling in their own way.

This one might not introduce any new ideas or change up his approach, but rather shows how comfortable he was in driving outside marked lanes.

Now he’d get to do it with his name spelled right, and presumably whatever girl he was with would be afford similar courtesies, and although when Don Robey fully seizes control of Duke Records he probably won’t get paid there either, that will at least give us a new target to make fun of when Gordon soon appears on the scene again at a new address.


(Visit the Artist page of Rosco Gordon for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)